Cannabis Terpenes 101: Beta-Caryophyllene

bypeterg3 minutes

Many marijuana consumers may not know that the distinctive flavours and aromas of cannabis, like cheese, lemon and pine, aren’t just for show. The odours and tastes of cannabis may also be signals of health benefits to come, and they may play an active role in delivering these benefits.

Terpenes are what give cannabis strains their distinctive aroma profiles. Just as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) binds to cannabinoid receptors to do its work, there’s a terpene that does the same. Beta-caryophyllene (BCP) has the unique ability to activate the endocannabinoid receptor CB2 and potentially carry a variety of healing properties.

What Are Terpenes?

Terpenes are oils produced by the plant’s resin glands. The strong-smelling organic compounds probably developed in cannabis plants to ward off predators and attract pollinators.

The more than 200 kinds of terpenes found in cannabis are also thought to deliver a wide range of health benefits, from helping with pain and inflammation to easing depression and anxiety. While more research needs to be done, the therapeutic promise of terpenes is garnering an increasing amount of interest in the medical marijuana community.


Besides their own benefits, the terpenes in marijuana are thought to modulate the effects and increase the potency of THC, cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabis compounds. Terpenes also help the compounds bind with the body’s own system of natural cannabinoid receptors, addressing a range of medical issues in ways that are just beginning to be understood.

Beta-Caryophyllene Provides a Healthy Zing to Cannabinoid Receptors

If you like herbs, spices and beer, then you’re probably already familiar with BCP, which gives a zing to:

  • Black pepper
  • Hops
  • Cloves
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano

In 2008, European scientists classified BCP as a dietary cannabinoid, and around the same time in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration approved it as a safe food additive.

The Health Benefits of Beta-Caryophyllene

There are hints that BCP has long played a role in folk medicine. For example, clove oils, dried flower buds, leaves and stems were used to make medicine—and still are today. According to WebMD, “Clove is most commonly applied directly to the gums for toothache, pain control during dental work and other dental-related issues.”

While studies on the health benefits of BCP are limited, what little has been done is promising. For example, in one study, mice injected with BCP felt less pain than those using a control solution.

The study also found that BCP boosted the pain-relieving properties of low doses of morphine, perhaps giving some indication as to why medical marijuana containing BCP can sometimes help people decrease their use of prescription opioids.

An August 2014 issue of Physiology & Behavior published a study looking at the role CB2 receptors play in anxiety and depression disorders. Researchers looked at BCP as a compound that could have beneficial pharmacological effects over existing benzodiazepines and certain serotonin reuptake inhibitors.


A 2007 lab study suggests that BCP may have anti-cancer properties, suppressing tumour growth and improving how well some chemotherapy medications work.

Other potential uses of BCP include:

  • Protecting brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease and stroke sufferers
  • Easing the symptoms of inflammation-related conditions that include osteoarthritis, colitis, atherosclerosis and diabetes
  • Supporting healthy skin cells

3 Beta-Caryophyllene-Rich Cannabis Strains Worth Trying

Since BCP is an approved food additive, BCP-rich marijuana strains would be good choices if you’re thinking about making your own cannabis edibles. Alternately, you can buy BCP extract, and add it directly to non-infused foods.

Marijuana strains that contain a good amount of BCP include:

  • OG Kush: A favourite in the medical cannabis community, OG Kush helps ease a number of health conditions like nausea, gastrointestinal issues and mood disorders.
  • ** Bubba Kush:** This classic indica marijuana strain helps stimulate appetite in medical marijuana patients. Bubba Kush is a great option for those who suffer from muscle spasms and many types of pain.
  • White Widow:The Dutch classic White Widow is a hybrid cannabis strain that imparts powerful mental stimulation and relaxing body sensations. It may help those suffering with anxiety, PTSD and depression.

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